ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Bus drivers holding signs and protesting for better pay and benefits have become a familiar sight in Anne Arundel County this week.

Friday, a group of bus drivers gathered outside the Board of Education building. Drivers passing by honked in support.

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The week started with two days of strikes at Annapolis Bus Company, one of several bus companies serving the school system.

The strikes caused nearly 100 bus routes to be canceled the first day and about 80 to be canceled the second.

WJZ spoke to parents who say they understand why the drivers are doing this.

“I am in full, full support and as long as it needs to take,” said parent Nicole Berg. “I cannot imagine the amount of emotional and physical stress that you have to endure every single day to make sure that my daughter gets to school.”

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman says bus drivers make between $25,000 and $28,000 a year. He has been pushing for an increase in their pay.

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Relief could be coming soon. The superintendent announced earlier this week that he is asking the school board to approve 7.4 million dollars to be used for a $5 an hour raise for drivers and bonuses. The initiative includes $2,000 signing bonuses for new drivers to stem a worsening labor shortage.

The Annapolis Bus Company drivers have gone back to work, but plan to unionize.

They also plan to support bus drivers from other companies that are protesting for better pay, too.

“We are our brother’s keeper,” said Mamie Irvin, a driver at Annapolis Bus Company who showed up to the Friday protest. “We all feel the same way about what is going on with the school system, our pay, our health insurance, our retirement plan our everything.”

School leaders said they want to try to get the money for the bus drivers approved quickly. They plan to discuss it before their next meeting which is October 20.

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If the school board approves the money, the next step would be to get the county council to approve it too.

CBS Baltimore Staff